Statement of the DFA Spokesperson on the Filipinos facing the Death Penalty in China

Statement of Department of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson J. Eduardo Malaya:
On the three Filipinos facing the death penalty in China for drug trafficking, and the continuing efforts for them to be granted leniency.

[Delivered at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Pasay City, February 18, 2011]

As instructed by President Benigno S. Aquino III, Vice President Jejomar Binay and DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban B. Conejos departed Manila on board a Philippine Airlines flight this early morning to seek clemency for our three Filipino nationals who were earlier meted with the sentence of death without reprieve in China.

The delegation arrived in Beijing at noon and was welcomed by senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China (PROC) and PROC Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao, and Philippine Ambassador to China Francisco L. Benedicto.

At 2:30 this afternoon, Vice President Binay and Undersecretary Conejos will meet with President Wang Shen Jun of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of China, and other high-ranking Chinese officials.

The DFA extends its appreciation to the People’s Republic of China for warmly receiving the Vice President and his delegation and for the opportunity to engage senior Chinese officials on behalf of the three Filipinos and their families.

We note that in receiving the Vice President, the Chinese Government took into serious consideration the sentiments of President Aquino and the Filipino people.

It is rare for countries to send a high-level official to appeal for their nationals in these circumstances. President Aquino, with his deep sense of compassion, decided to instruct the Vice President to proceed to China for the sake of the families of our three Filipino nationals.

The visit reaffirms the close friendship between the Philippines and China and gives both sides the opportunity to further collaborate on ways and means to address the drug trafficking menace.

We also note that the sentences imposed on the three Filipinos are final in accordance with Chinese law, and we respect the decisions of the Chinese courts.

The families of Mr. Ramon and Ms. Sally will leave for Xiamen this Saturday morning so as to have the opportunity to see and to visit their loved ones on Sunday.

On Sunday morning, the family of Ms. Elizabeth will depart Manila for Guangzhou for a similar visit.

We wish to emphasize that the DFA extended full legal and consular assistance to all three Filipino nationals.

The Philippine Government also made low-key but high-level representations with the Chinese authorities to seek mitigated sentences for our three Filipinos.

The Philippine Consulates General in Xiamen and in Guangzhou made constant jail visitations and extended full consular assistance to the three Filipinos and to their families for scheduled visits.

Consulate officials in Xiamen visited Ms. Sally eight times during the period of January 2009 to January 2011.

They also visited Mr. Ramon eight times during the period of January 2009 to January 2011.

Meanwhile, Consulate officials in Guangzhou visited Ms. Elizabeth five times between August 2008 and October 2010.

The Embassy and Consulates closely monitored their cases (both the trial and the appeal). Consulate officials attended their court hearings and had close coordination with the counsels of the three Filipinos.

All three Filipinos were represented by competent legal counsel and aided by translators during the trial of their cases.

The Philippine Government has a strong anti-illegal drug policy, and is closely cooperating with law enforcement agencies in other countries on efforts against anti-drugs trafficking.

Let me close by appealing to all Filipinos, particularly those who travel abroad, not to be victimized by international drug syndicates. At the airport, do not agree to carry any luggage for strangers. We must all take full responsibility for our actions by always being on guard against inducements.